Willy Wonka, owner of a magical and mysterious chocolate factory, invites the audience to join him in a world of "Pure Imagination." Although Wonka excels at making candy, he is ready to retire and find some “bright spark” to continue his candy confectioning.
Charlie Bucket’s family is poor. They do not have enough money to buy food or warm clothes, let alone candy. The local Candy Man arrives with his candy cart of Wonka treats, and gives Charlie a sample "on the house," as well as yesterday's paper. The paper contains exciting news: Willy Wonka is holding a contest! The five lucky people who find Golden Tickets inside Wonka bars win a tour of the chocolate factory and a lifetime supply of chocolate.
While returning to school, Charlie learns the enormous eater, Augustus Gloop, has found the first Golden Ticket in Frankfurt, Germany. Augustus and his mother describe how Augustus has been carefully trained for the task of eating lots of food. The reporter, Phineous Trout, announces that Veruca Salt has found the second Golden Ticket in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Veruca's father assisted her search by having his factory workers shell chocolate wrappers.
Charlie makes his way home to find his father sitting alone on a bench. Mr. Bucket has lost his job at the toothpaste factory and worries the family will starve. Charlie reminds his father "the Bucket family always thinks positive".
Charlie and his father return home and, "surprise!" it’s Charlie's birthday! Charlie receives a Wonka bar as a birthday present, but no Golden Ticket is found. The family tunes in the radio, only to learn Violet Beauregarde, of Snellville, Georgia, has found the third Golden Ticket. Violet is a gum chewer who switched to chocolate in order to win the contest, but is now back to constantly chewing gum. Phineous Trout interrupts to announce Mike Teavee, in Television City, California, has found the fourth Golden Ticket. Mike and his mother explain the only thing they need is TV, the Internet and computer games.
Charlie wishes he’d never heard of "chocolate" or "Willy Wonka" and the family encourages Charlie to cheer up.
The city is blanketed in a deep snow; on his way to school, Charlie meets the Candy Man, who gives Charlie his scarf. Charlie finds a coin buried in the snow, and offers to post a notice about the lost coin. The Candy Man rewards Charlie with a Wonka bar for being "such a good kid." Charlie then purchases a Wonka bar and finds the final Golden Ticket! He runs home to tell his family of his win and they decide Grandpa Joe should accompany Charlie on the tour of Wonka’s factory.
Wonka greets the five winners and their parents at the gates, and they begin their tour of the magical factory.They arrive at the Chocolate Smelting Room, where Wonka chills chocolate to the perfect temperature for dipping strawberries. Augustus cannot resist tasting the chocolate and falls into a vat of it, which hardens instantly like magic shell, trapping Augustus. The Oompa-Loompas remove Augustus and his mother and reveal the moral of eating too much.
Wonka continues the tour by revealing a pink candy boat that takes the remaining group on a psychedelic adventure down a chocolate river. They arrive at the Inventing Room where Violet is tempted by the Everlasting Gourmet Gobstopper. She snatches one, chews it, and swells like a giant blueberry. The Oompa-Loompas remove her and her mother and detail the moral of children who chew gum more than once in a while.
Charlie and Grandpa Joe are separated from the group and discover the Fizzy Lifting Drink. They taste a bit of the drink and fly towards the sky. They encounter an exhaust fan overhead—which could mean their untimely demise—but they discover that by burping they float safely to the ground. They rejoin the group in the Nut Room where Veruca demands a Squirrel, a pink candy boat and an Oompa-Loompa. Veruca and her father disappear down a trash chute that may or may not lead to the incinerator, and the Oompa-Loompas discuss the moral of spoiled brats.
With just Charlie, Grandpa Joe, Mike and Ms. Teavee left, the tour reaches the Choco-Vision Room, where Mike meets his temptation and is shrunk to barely six inches tall. The Oompa-Loompas discuss the moral of too much TV and technology.
At the conclusion of the tour Charlie does something remarkable: he thanks Wonka for the tour and admits to tasting the Fizzy Lifting Drink and breaking the rules. Wonka reveals the tour was a test of character and only Charlie has succeeded. Wonka proclaims Charlie as his successor as Charlie’s family joins them at Wonka’s factory.